Although associations (such as CSMD/Association for Struggle Against Sexual Violence and YAHA/Youth Approaches to Health Association) have been vocal and active in raising awareness about holistic and inclusive sex education, menstruation was excluded from the agenda in Turkey until ‘We Need to Talk’ started field work in 2018. With an increase in online discussions (mostly initiated outside of Turkey) about periods, the visibility of this issue is expanding, especially due to the 18% Value Added Tax (VAT) for menstrual hygiene products. Although there is no tampon tax reform yet, there are important changes among political actors and menstruation activists. In 2018, opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Serra Kadıgil proposed a draft bill to decrease the 18% VAT to 5%. Two years later (in 2020), another opposition MP, Gülistan Kılıç Koçyiğit proposed a draft bill for menstrual products to be provided for free in public schools. Both proposals are overdue, waiting for the Budgetary Commission report.
Intersectional factors exacerbate impacts on women and girls. Refugees and seasonal agricultural workers for example experience difficulties in reaching clean water and disinfecting materials, critical for menstrual hygiene management. Stigma around discussing menstruation remains strong, particularly in rural areas, where most female students have never talked about periods with anyone, even after their first period. Women and girls cannot afford menstrual products. The COVID-19 Pandemic worsened accessibility as the Deep Poverty Network’s report on Female Poverty indicated 82% of women cannot afford sanitary pads. Menstrual care is not a topic in the formal Turkish educational curriculum (some private schools provide workshops on sexuality and puberty, yet menstruation is usually excluded), nor is there informative and reliable content in Turkish based on contextual and cultural scenarios.
We Need to Talk (Konusmamiz Gerek!)/ WNNT, was founded in 2021 by two PhD students (women) in law and sociology, and have been working in the field since 2018, reaching nearly 12,000 girls (9-17) and 8000 young women (18+), mainly in rural areas. Programs fall under four areas: 1) Field Work: Visits to 8 cities and 23 schools (to date) in villages, refugee camps, slums, or remote neighbourhoods lacking access to menstrual products, with the aim of providing menstrual products (mostly pads) and deliver trainings on topics including menstruation, sexual health, puberty and personal hygiene. Prioritize working with 3 groups: VYAGS who just had / about to have first periods living in remote rural areas, seasonal agricultural workers, and Syrian refugees. Field trips conducted with support of volunteers (young women students, doctors, and translators mostly for Kurdish and Arabic, depending on the need). 2) Awareness Raising: An Instagram page with 12,000+ followers, and e-newsletter in Turkish called “Oyunbozan” (Killjoy, inspired by Sara Ahmed’s Feminist Killjoy); also “Guidelines on Menstruation for Non-Menstruators” consisting of 7 different sections, including a lens for those who identify as non-binary or trans. 3) Research: To measure impact of projects and contribute to academic literature; address period poverty with an academic approach, collect qualitative and quantitative data, report, and contribute to the literature gap on period poverty in Turkey. 4) Advocacy: Participating in events such as Women’s Forum Global Meeting in Paris, Stanford AMENDS Talks in Tunis, World Urban Forum in Kuala Lumpur and Generation Equality Forums in Mexico City and Paris.
This grant is to provide emergency funding as a response to the devastating earthquakes in Turkey. We Need to Talk will provide menstrual care kits and hold safe spaces for women and girls to discuss menstruation, menstrual care in emergency settings and menstrual health with a mobile team in the field.
Primary Location: Istanbul
Funded Since: 2021
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